New Players / Old Game
We all know that World of Warcraft is a venerable game at this point. In fact by the time most games hit 7 years of age, they are not even on anyones radar, yet for some reason WoW is still the reigning King of MMOGs. Over time players come and players go, but for some reason new players keep coming to the game that is now 7 years old. My question is what do new players coming into an old game like this think? How does it hold up to other games, what do they think about it?
This whole idea came to me last month when my son asked for a WoW account for his birthday. Now, I have to explain, I am a horrible mean father, having played WoW for the full 7 years it has been out, he has wanted to play, but I have never let him to this point. The issue being that he just turned 13 and I never liked the idea of having a young child online, I know the kind of people out there online, and the fact that it is an expensive game, and the fact that I didnt want him online all the time.
Come his 13th birthday though, he has some friends online, he is very mature for his age, and since everything is online now, and he has been taught to be careful for many years about online safety. So I got him a copy of WoW and a few months of game time to try it out. He has fallen in love with the game, and has levelled a few toons quickly with myself and his friends. It really got me thinking about this though, what does and old game have to offer new players, and what does a new player like or dislike about the game? Is there something to learn from a new player playing an old game?
On a side note, for parents thinking of getting WoW for their kids for Christmas, I found another cool feature that is out there. I had heard of it but never really paid attention to it until setting up the game for my son, it is the parent control system. For any parent out there thinking of getting their child an account I strongly suggest checking out the parental features, and in fact, I will try to get a guide up on how to use them in the near future.
What Does a New Player Like About WoW?
Lets start off with what a new player likes first about World of Warcraft, what grabs their attention and makes them want to spend time in the game. We already know that most new players join because of friends or family that play, but what keeps them in past that first free 20 levels, what makes them want to pay for the game and the monthly fee?
Graphics Surprisingly, one of the first things my son said when asked this, was the graphics. Sure he has seen it before, hes been watching since he was 7, but he still said the graphics are cool. He says the bright colours, almost cartoony effect, and flashy spell effects all add to the game making it distinctive and easy to play. He complained that many games are way to dark, saying that games like Call of Duty is hard to tell whats going on all the time, he liked this better. (The CoD comment started a whole other conversation about where he was playing that since we dont have it, but hey they always play stuff at friends places, mom wasnt happy though)
Quests This one I could understand easily, he loved all the quests and story lines to follow. Maybe it was the threats a long time ago that the only way he could play games was to make sure he read the text, but he actually does read the text and enjoy the story line in a game. So when he got to start playing WoW last month he fell in love with the stories in the zones, the characters, and the history of Azeroth as told by the characters. Sure he might be a bit strange as a kid to like this, but his favourite channels are Discovery and History and have been since he was about 5. Of course they are my favourites too, right after Speed, ESPN, and anything else that has F1, MotoGP, or NFL on it, but hey thats close enough right?
He has even stayed in zones past their valid levelling point just to find out what happens next. There have been a few times I have come past him, looked where he was and his quests and they were all grey, and asked what was up. To which his answer was, he wanted to know what happened next. Two points for promoting reading!
Dungeons / Battlegrounds The next thing he said he liked was dungeons and battle grounds. He loved that you could decide that you wanted to go do something else, queue up, and poof, there you were. He likes Dungeons better so far as he isnt familiar enough with the game or the controls to be good at PVP yet, but likes them both. He did complain that some of the old dungeons were too long and that it was hard to get a group and play them in the hour or two that we allow him a night. I never really worried about long instances, but then I dont have an enforced bedtime. Once he started getting to play a few of the shorter instances he really liked those. Hey, maybe Blizzard does know their audience with all the attempts to make shorter instances and aiming at 30-45 minutes per.
All the Options The last thing he really liked was all the choices. He said it was like 20-30 games all in one. He can go and do so many different things that he always has something to do. Even it all he wanted to do was quest (which he does), he said there are enough to keep him busy forever!. While I know that isnt quite true, there certainly are a lot, and more than enough to keep players busy for a very long time.
He also liked that the characters played differently from each other so each character was like a whole new game. He also liked that Horde and Alliance have their own areas so its a different game early on between each faction. So many choices, his comment here was that it was like video game Halloween, so much candy, no idea what to eat first.
What does a New Player Dislike about WoW?
Leveling too fast This one surprised me as most people complain that levelling is too slow in a game, however after levelling so quickly with the Recruit a Friend bonus while I was playing with him, he said that it was too fast. He far preferred the slower pace by himself, and even then said it was way to fast. He like having time to complete zones and not just do a few quests and be past the level range of the zone.
Guild Spam For the first few days while he was not in a guild all he got was guild spam every few minutes. When he asked some questions about why he should join them they ignored him. In other words the spam was just to get him to join so the guild earned money and wasnt out to offer him anything. Hmm, maybe at 13 he is smarter than I give him credit for. He said people should not be able to spam that at all.
Hard to get groups While he liked the dungeons, as referred to above, he really disliked how long it took on his DPS character. When he switched over to healing on his druid it was instant. Common complaint, right? I explained why and he understands now, but said, shouldnt they warn people about that on the character creation screen? Straight from a 13 year old, They should put a big banner on the character creation screen that says if you like playing in groups play a tank or healer class. Again, maybe he is smarter that I credit him for being?
Lack of Talking other than to Spam or Sell something He really disliked this one, as he has seen how my friends and I talk in game all the time. His comment was that as a new player out on his own, no one would talk to him other than to sell something of spam. He asked a few people to group in areas where he was adventuring and got ignored, asked for directions a few times and got ignored, and asked for help and you guessed it got ignored. Yet he voluntarily rezed people he saw die, helped those in trouble, and gave away free bags to low levels that he saw. He commented that he thought the reason to play a game with 1000s of other people on the server was to do things with them, and were they just ignoring him because he was a kid? I had to answer that no, they had no way to tell that it was just a matter of people in WoW being antisocial and not social or friendly MMO players other than to those in their own guild.
Complexity and Lack of Direction The last thing he complained about that was without me helping him he would have no idea what to do or where to go. Simple things like how to train, how to fly, bind your hearth, which stats are critical, how to chat to players (/w or /r or even /p), how to make macros, the importance of positioning as melee dps, and so many other things are not really made clear. Things that many of us take for granted having played other games, are kind of explained, but not entirely. Even things like why you should use keyboard buttons for spells and not mouse click, how to add extra bars, how to bind keys, and more, not really explained. He asked if he just didnt get it, or if it wasnt there, and having watched him try to learn, I can see that a lot of it just is not there for new players. Admittedly it is about 20x better than the initial release of WoW, but it still is not all that new player friendly for those new to MMOs it is a lot to take in all at once. I am honestly not sure there is a way to make it easy to learn, so this might be as good as it gets, but there is a lot missing.
Overall Thoughts From a New Player to an Old Game
Overall my son really enjoys the game and says that he does not care that it is old, it is still new to him. He also likes that there is so much to do, and so much going on that you cannot possibly get bored in it for months. His words were that it is a new game to him and his friends that are playing and a pretty awesome game at that.
I thought this was a pretty fair assessment from a new MMO player, and it reminded me of all the different things that I really liked and disliked about the game. I think he hit it bang on. It is pretty hard for us long time players to remember back when everything was new and shiny in the game, and we were excited about everything that there was to do. For any new player that picks up the game though, there is so much available right off the bat for them that nothing else out there can really compare.
I know that WoW is losing subscribers, and is poised to lose a lot more when Star Wars comes out, but for anyone out there that has friends, family, or children that are looking for a game to entertain them for a while, you really cant find as much bang for the buck out there as you get with wow.